LeClair returning for another term, new high school a priority



By Ron Giofu


There will not be a race for public school board trustee in Amherstburg and LaSalle.

Ron LeClair was acclaimed as the Greater Essex County District School Board trustee and is happy to be able to return for another four years.

“Being acclaimed is something I wasn’t expecting,” said LeClair. “Now that it’s happened, I want to focus on the next four years.”

One of LeClair’s major focuses will be what happens on the Centennial Park site.

“From the perspective of the Town of Amherstburg, I want to see the completion of the new high school sooner rather than later,” said LeClair. “We put a lot of work and effort in identifying the site.”

LeClair said the first step was to provide the template and rooms required to the province. The next step will be to get some drawings of what the new school will look like.

Ron LeClair has been acclaimed for another four-year term as the trustee for Amherstburg and LaSalle with the Greater Essex County District School Board.

“I hope to see some drawings soon,” LeClair stated.

Public input will also be coming, he added, into what the new school will look like.

“There will be some public opportunities moving forward,” said LeClair. “We always engage the public on large projects.”

LeClair indicated consultations will also include teachers as well as the general public.

“I’m confident we’ll be able to build something good for the community,” he said.

With the school to be built on the southern 15 acres of the Centennial Park site, LeClair said that it is in the “downtown area” and that many students will be able to walk to school. Road access is “suitable” and LeClair believes it will be “more traffic friendly” for the town as school-related traffic will be moved off of Sandwich St. S. where the current General Amherst High School is located.

“You are getting traffic off of the main road,” he said. “I think it will be a positive location.”

LeClair added that he is confident that proper entrances and exits will be constructed with the best interest of traffic flow in mind. The school will be built to accommodate 819 students and is tentatively scheduled to be ready for the 2020-21 school year.

“We will have some field sport space,” he stated, though it does not appear there will be a track at this point. As for what is done with the 12 acres of Centennial Park that the public board did not purchase, LeClair said that is up to the municipality.

“What the town does with the remaining portion is a municipal issue,” he said.

The new public high school in Amherstburg is not the only new build that LeClair is looking forward to. He noted he is also wanting to see the completion of the new Prince Andrew Public School in LaSalle. That new elementary school will be constructed on Judy Recker Dr., near the Vollmer Complex.

The Greater Essex County District School Board is building the new public high school on the southern 15 acres of Centennial Park (blue shaded area).
(Image courtesy of

LeClair touted the Greater Essex County District School Board’s math task force and he would like to see that continue.

“We’ve all been very supportive of that,” he said.

Supporting the trades and assisting robotics programs are initiatives LeClair would also like to pursue further.

“I’ve seen the success those programs have had with students,” he said.

Building on academic and financial successes are also priorities, with LeClair noting that the public board is close to eliminating its outstanding debt.

“I’m looking forward to working with the community to make Amherstburg a great place to live and attend school,” he said.


Local volunteer recognized as a “Champion for Education”


By Ron Giofu


Darrie-Ann Richard has been volunteering at Anderdon Public School for about nine years and that has led her to winning an award.

Richard was one of ten people or groups recognized by the Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB) as a “Champion for Education” during the public board’s April 17 meeting.

“I’m very overwhelmed,” said Richard. “I received an e-mail (notifying her that she was a recipient) three weeks ago.”

Awards were accompanied by certificates with reasoning of why the “Champions for Education” were nominated. They were read aloud at the board meeting by GECDSB public relations officer Scott Scantlebury.

Darrie-Ann Richard was one of the “Champions for Education” that were recognized last Tuesday night by the Greater Essex County District School Board. From left: director of education Erin Kelly, board chair Kim McKinley, Richard and board vice-chair and Amherstburg/LaSalle trustee Ron LeClair.

“Darrie-Ann has a profound appreciation for literature and the arts, both of which she has helped spread throughout the Anderdon Public School community,” Scantlebury read. “She’s the parent of two students, an Anderdon graduate and a current Mustang. But a perceptive youngster has discerned her secret identity. She is the Book Fairy.”

Richard was described as “an enthusiastic co-ordinator of the school’s annual book fair” for over nine years. She has also served as a guest reader in classrooms and has staged school events as birthday parties for Dr. Seuss.

Richard joked the staff at Anderdon is “sneaky” and that if she had known they were going to nominate her, she wouldn’t have let them. Much of the staff attended the board meeting in support of Richard.

“I just like being at the school with the kids,” she said. “It’s nice being part of the community.”

Darrie-Ann Richard is surrounded by her family as well as Anderdon Public School staff and students after being recognized as a “Champion for Education” April 17.

The staff allows her to be around the students and work with the kids, she said. Richard also helps with the school plays, as Anderdon is staging “Willy Wonka Jr.” May 2-4.

“The staff is outstanding,” said Richard. “It’s a special place. They are a very supportive bunch. To have them all here was a little bit overwhelming. They made me feel welcome from the very first day.”

Richard added her husband travels for his job and she uses her time helping the students at Anderdon Public School. She noted she enjoys being involved with literacy and the arts at the Middle Side Road elementary school.

“It’s fun to be a part of it,” she said.

Employment Assessment Centre expanding to Essex County libraries


By Ron Giofu


The Greater Essex County District School Board’s Employment Assessment Centre is branching out to more locations in Essex County with Amherstburg and McGregor soon to have some services.

The Employment Assessment Centre has entered into what the public board is calling “a unique partnership with the Essex County Library” to offer employment assessment, job coaching, resume assistance, workshops and other resources at its branches.

Employment services began at the LaSalle and Tecumseh branches July 20.

“We will be look to have programming in all libraries in Essex County by the end of October,” explained Employment Assessment Centre manager Debra DiDomenico.

That would include the Amherstburg and McGregor branches, but does not include branches in Leamington, Kingsville and Essex. Those towns, along with Windsor, already have Employment Assessment Centre offices, DiDomenico explained.


The Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB) partners with Employment Ontario and offers a “range of services” to assist clients in landing employment. Such services include job search assistance, job coaching, mock interviews, and help with resumes but DiDomenico said they assist employers as well. She said the centres work with employers to match up people with jobs and also offer wage subsidies should a worker need on-the-job training.

There are also services for youth ages 15-29, she added.

DiDomenico pointed out that services in LaSalle are every Thursday currently, but noted they could increase should the demand be there.

The Essex County Library is a system of 14 libraries that provide quality materials and services free of charges, to all residents of Essex County. DiDomenico said the Employment Assessment Centre are bringing their services to the county as a way to reach more clients and allow people with transportation issues a chance to access their services.

It is also a way to get more people into the libraries and use those services as well.

“The facilities are excellent,” DiDomenico said of the Essex County libraries.

The GECDSB Employment Assessment Centre is a full service Employment Assistance Program funded through the Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development.

Public board approves space template for new high school



By Ron Giofu


The new public high school is one step closer.

The Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB) approved the space template for the new school last week.

“The space template is designed to determine the number of square feet you need based on the programs you would like to offer,” explained Amherstburg/LaSalle trustee Ron LeClair.

LeClair said now that the board has gone through the space template process, it will be sent to the province for approval.

According to the report that went before the public board, the new public high school would have 21 classrooms, five science laboratories, a music room, a graphics/visual arts room, three computer rooms, a triple gym, a culinary/hospitality room, cafeteria, library, weight room, and technical spaces for transportation technology, welding/manufacturing, communications technology, cosmetology and construction.

There would also be a special education room, but that would bring the projected total capacity to 828 students, up nine pupils from the approved 819 that the new school had been approved for. The administrative report noted that the board made an error and did not originally include a special education room in the business plan but the report added the room “will be designed with some flexibility to ensure that they can accommodate changes in the population.”


LeClair said they are hoping the template gets approved within the money given by the province.

The new dual campus school will have emphasis on technology and shops, something that many of the 218 respondents to the board’s recent survey emphasized as necessary to prepare students for the future. A total of 73 respondents said “trade options and programs” were requires with 38 stating technology.

“There is a significant technological footprint within the school, certainly much larger than the ones we’ve recently built,” said LeClair, adding there will be outside partners sought for other opportunities that won’t be provided at the school.

As for how the school will be built and whether or not the General Amherst and Western students will be blended or kept in different sections of the new building, that has not been determined. If the template is approved, an architect will be engaged and the board and administration will have to hammer out how the school will be utilized in terms of operating as a dual campus.

“That’s something that is a little bit down the road yet,” said LeClair.

It is “premature” to identify any possible location for the school, he added, noting they are moving forward but negotiations haven’t been finalized.

The public board has made consistent progress since the resolution on building a new, dual campus school was passed. The biggest hurdle, he believed, was getting the funding.

“We’ve got that and I’m very positive about the process moving forward in a timely manner,” said LeClair. “I’m confident the process is moving forward and we’ll have a very nice school to house both General Amherst and Western Secondary.”

Public school board seeking input into design of new high school


By Ron Giofu

A site has yet to be announced for the new public high school, but the Greater Essex County District School Board wants input on what the public wants the school to look like.

The public school board has posted a survey to its website ( as well as the websites of General Amherst High School, Western Secondary School and all public elementary schools in Essex County asking for feedback on “the way they feel the school could prepare students for the future and how this new building can play a role in the community.”

Scott Scantlebury, public relations officer with the Greater Essex County District School Board, noted that all elementary schools in Essex County were included in the survey due to the fact that there are students who may consider the specialized IPRC learning program that is offered at Western Secondary School.

Scantlebury noted the survey is “generally about design” with questions designed to be open-ended. The first question centres on what the public believes is important in a school to prepare students for the future.

General Amherst High School

General Amherst High School

Scantlebury said that could include classroom spaces, technology, skilled trades opportunities and other amenities that could assist student learning.

“Those are the kinds of ideas we are looking for,” he said.

There is a “general site plan template,” Scantlebury noted, but the size of the school will also be determined by whatever site is chosen. The second question is regarding layout of the building, he stated.

“Since this is the consolidation of two school communities, there could be varying opinions of what the layout should look like,” said Scantlebury.

Whether Western students and General Amherst students would have their own specific parts of the building has not been decided yet, Scantlebury added, though public opinion through the survey could help figure that out. He noted size and budgetary considerations will also factor into that decision.

“Those things have yet to be determined,” he said.

The third question pertains to community partnerships and how the school could best serve the community.

Western Secondary School

Western Secondary School

Scantlebury indicated a decision on where the school will be located could come relatively soon.

“We are getting close,” he said of the site selection decision.

There is no timeline for a decision, he said, but the public board would like to move forward “as soon as possible.”

Potential sites have been narrowed down, Scantlebury noted. There has been talk of the school either being located at Centennial Park or as part of the Libro Centre property, but Scantlebury said he couldn’t speak on specific locations. Once a site is chosen, “it’s a matter of completing the negotiations.”

It will likely be several years before a new school is open to students.

“There are a number of steps,” said Scantlebury, noting the site plan template has to be approved by the board and province once that plan is finalized.

“Once we have acquired the land, the architects will take over the design phase,” he said.

The design phase can take anywhere from nine months to one year, he added, with the overall design also needing approval of the board of trustees and the province.

From there, the project would go to tender and the actual construction is likely to take 14-16 months.

Funding from the Ontario government for a new public high school in Amherstburg was announced Oct. 31, 2016. The Greater Essex County District School Board announced it received $23.8 million for a new public high school that will combine General Amherst High School and Western Secondary School. The new building will be able to accommodate 819 students.

The survey is open for submissions until June 9.